What you need to know:
- The challenges include resistance to change among the target populations, and lack of political goodwill and government support in some instances.
- Language barrier is another challenge, since we work in many different locations and with different types of people.
- Also, we sometimes lack resources to advance change in the communities where we work.
Levi Juma, 37, is a project management specialist with vast experience in programme design, management, implementation and community engagements both at local and national level. The University of Nairobi and Kenya Institute of Management alumnus has over 10 years’ experience in community work and development, especially in matters of youth and women.
He has worked both in Kenya and the African continent. With deep understanding in global issues, Juma also boasts, among others, knowledge in accountability and good governance, civic engagement, peace and stability. He is also a communicator and writer with skills to synthesise complex research and data.
Tell us about your job…
Programme design, management, implementation and community engagement is about working with communities in identifying problems, prioritising support and tracking actions for impact and change in the society. We work with key leaders and other stakeholders including the media and government institutions. I have been involved in designing community projects in the country with the most notable of my interactions being on development projects in various communities. I have also been involved in developing strategic plans in Kisumu County targeting the urban poor.
What are some of the challenges that programmers like you face?
The challenges include resistance to change among the target populations, and lack of political goodwill and government support in some instances. Language barrier is another challenge, since we work in many different locations and with different types of people. Also, we sometimes lack resources to advance change in the communities where we work. The youth demographic is also a ticking time bomb as there are very few sustainable and long-term youth interventions to prevent them from adding to the statistics of unemployment and crime.
Africa is arguably the wealthiest continent, yet it still lags behind in development. As an expert, what would you say is ailing the giant?
Poor governance is a major problem across many African States. In Africa, there is a disconnect between political players and the citizenry. Politicians only look after themselves and their families while leaving the citizens to suffer from the effects of poor allocation of resources, constant conflicts, electoral violence and coups. Our politicians’ main objective seems to be to gain control of the resources rather than to serve their people.
Also, a good number of the policies meant to safeguard the available resources are outdated, and the ones that are beneficial are not being fully implemented. We also lack a strong, collective voice from the African Union due to the divisions that exist among the various African countries and regions.
Climate change is also a problem, as many Africans are experiencing cases of famine and drought, malnutrition and deaths.
In your understanding of global issues, what are some of the pressing and emerging issues that Kenya needs to deal with?
The high cost of living and taxes that are pushing many Kenyans into poverty and mental health crises needs to be addressed immediately. Another thing we should look into is the widening gap of inequality, where the rich continue getting richer and the poor, poorer. Youth unemployment, as I said earlier, is a ticking time bomb that could explode at any time.
Our governance system of devolved governments is also expensive to maintain, especially in a country where corruption is a big challenge. We also need to find ways of reducing the high rates of teenage pregnancies and adopt climate action strategies to reduce famine, drought and food insecurity
In your opinion, how can data be used to bring about positive change in the community?
Data provides crucial information which can be used when seeking solutions to a nation’s most pressing needs. Proper data collection and analysis can also lead to proper utilisation and allocation of resources across a country.
What are some of the most notable achievements in your career so far?
In am proud of having developed the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) policy 2020 which sought to address the issue of teenage pregnancies in Kakamega County. Because of that, I received many awards from different organisations including the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF). I have also been part of the National Youth Serving Organisations in amplifying the voices of youth-led and youth-serving organisations.
Your advice to young people?
Be you and never try to be a version of anybody else. You can never know what you are capable of if you’re always hanging on other people’s coat tails.